Mobile phone data reveals shoppers in Lancashire not deterred by Covid-19

Lancashire food shops and pharmacies busier in run-up to Christmas
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The gathering pace of the second wave of Covid-19 did not deter shoppers stocking up for Christmas in Lancashire, Google data suggests.

Activity in Lancashire’s supermarkets and pharmacies in the week to December 20 was on average on a par with a five-week baseline period at the start of the year, the latest report shows.

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The previous week it was five per cent lower, in line with the week to December 6, showing a rising number of shopping trips in the last week before Christmas.

Lancashire food shops and pharmacies busier in run-up to ChristmasLancashire food shops and pharmacies busier in run-up to Christmas
Lancashire food shops and pharmacies busier in run-up to Christmas

Google uses location data from phones and other devices to show trends in people’s movement during the pandemic, including in shops.

The data includes movement in grocery markets, food warehouses, farmers markets, specialty food shops, drug stores, and pharmacies.

Concern has grown over possible coronavirus transmission in busy environments, such as supermarkets.

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Several of the major chains have pledged to deny entry to customers not wearing face masks, amid concerns that social distancing rules are being flouted.

But the British Retail Consortium says shops are a safe environment and that supermarkets are Covid-secure.

The figures suggest these locations were much quieter in the following weeks covering Christmas and New Year, at an average of 11% below the baseline in the week to December 27, and down 18 per cent in the week to January 3.

Across the UK, the supermarket visits were just two per cent below pre-pandemic activity in the week to December 20, which was higher than any other week since the start of the first lockdown on March 23.

Activity then dropped sharply in the following two weeks.

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Aldi, Tesco, Asda, Waitrose and Morrisons have all said they will turn away shoppers without a face mask unless they have a medical exemption.

Sainsbury’s said its security staff will “challenge” shoppers who are not wearing face coverings or who enter stores in groups.

A spokesman for Tesco said: “We are also asking our customers to shop alone, unless they’re a carer or with children.”

The tougher enforcement measures came after vaccines minister Mr Zahawi urged the public to wear masks and observe one-way systems in supermarkets.

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Speaking to Sky News he said: “We are concerned that, for example, in supermarkets, we need to make sure people actually wear masks and follow the one-way system rule, and when they are at capacity to operate safely for people to wait outside supermarkets.

“We don’t want to go any tougher because this is a pretty tough lockdown, but what we need is people to behave as if they’ve got the virus so we can bring this virus under control whilst we vaccinate.”

Dr Penelope Toff and Dr Richard Jarvis, co-chairs of the British Medical Association’s Public Health Medicine Committee, said the lockdown measures will only work if “everyone pulls together and follows the rules”.

They added: “This includes spending time indoors only with people from your family or bubble and wearing masks and socially distancing from others in well ventilated essential work or public spaces.”

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Andrew Opie, director of food and sustainability at the British Retail Consortium, said data from the Scientific Advisory Group for Emergencies (Sage) “has always highlighted that retail is a safe environment”.

“Firms have spent hundreds of millions on safety measures including Perspex screens, additional cleaning, and social distancing,” he added.

“Supermarkets continue to follow all safety guidance and customers should be reassured that supermarkets are Covid-secure and safe to visit during lockdown and beyond.

“Customers should play their part too by following in-store signage and being considerate to staff and fellow shoppers.”